For those who are new to planning a Walt Disney World vacation, Disney gives all guests staying at an on-site resort the ability to check in online up to 60-days in advance via your My Disney Experience account. Guests opting to use the service are able to provide details in advance which will speed up the check-in process so that your first memory of arriving at Disney is not waiting in long lines.
Guests visiting for the first time often ask me whether they should utilize the online check-in or simply check-in as normal when they arrive at the parks. I tend to favor the online check-in option. However, to help you make up your own mind here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons I’ve encountered when using the service.
1. Let Disney know in advance when you’ll be arriving – Though Disney doesn’t guarantee that your room will be ready for check-in until 3pm, there’s a handy feature of the online check-in service that allows you to notify Disney on when you plan on arriving at the resort. For those arriving before 3pm, this means that whenever possible, Disney may expedite the cleaning of your room so that you are able to check in before 3pm. Under the Mobile Room Ready Notification Service that is a part of the online check-in process, Disney will send a text message directly to your phone when your room is ready along with a map of where to find your room! It’s wonderful to be driving into Disney or boarding Disney’s Magical Express from the airport and already know what room you’ll be heading to.
2. Allows you to bypass check-in lines – Online check-in allows you to provide Disney with a lot of essential details in advance. This can be everything from arrival times (mentioned above) to credit card details so that charging privileges can be added to your room. Being able to see to the nitty gritty before you arrive means that you won’t spend your first hour standing in line in the lobby but can dive right in and enjoy all the amazing perks your resort has to offer.
3. Room requests – Prefer to be on a higher floor to avoid the noise? Want to be close to an elevator for convenience? Online check-in allows you to make a couple of generic requests on where you would like your room to be located. Though the system doesn’t allow you to select specific rooms or floors it will often times ask what sort of view you want, whether or want a higher or lower floor etc. Disney doesn’t guarantee that your specific requests will be honored. However, in my experience, they work hard to try to accommodate as many of these preferences as possible.
4. Head straight to your room – Under Disney’s mobile notification service, Disney will text guests when your resort room is ready. This means that should you get a text before you arrive at the resort and if you already have your MagicBands, you can head directly to your resort room. Your MagicBand serves as your resort room key so you can let yourself right in. This is perfect for families lugging a lot of luggage, that have plans to head to the pool, or who want to get to the to the theme parks as quickly as possible.
1. Be careful with those room requests – The online check-in room request selections can at times be a bit confusing. Not only have I had these selections throw clients for a loop but have experienced this as well. I stayed at a Value Resort last year and paid for a preferred room. When I arrived my room was buried in the far rear corner of one of the buildings and didn’t seem convenient or preferred at all. When I contacted the desk staff, they told me it was because I had selected “Landscape View” which put me at the back of the property where there were some trees and a tiny garden. Though I didn’t want views of parking lots, I certainly didn’t want to be further away from central amenities. So when making these suggestions be careful and if you aren’t quite sure what one of the selections means, its best to skip it.
2. You miss the “Welcome Home” feeling – Though some guests absolutely love the comfort and convenience of being able to go directly to your resort room, you do miss that magical “Welcome Home” moment when opting to skip the lobby. There is something very special about catching that first glimpse of resort’s magnificent theming or meeting the Cast Members. By skipping the Front Desk check-in process you may also miss out on important info. This includes getting celebration buttons and resort activity calendars. A lot of first-time visitors may not realize that instead of heading straight to your room, you ALWAYS have the option of visiting the online check-in queue in the lobby (which is a good idea for reasons I’ll list below) to officially check-in and feel like you’ve arrived before heading to the room.
3. Free upgrades – So let me preface this by saying that there’s something pretty special about getting a FREE upgrade at Disney World. Sometimes, I’ve been surprised by one when I check-in, other times I’ve asked to see if any where available. Though this special little showering of pixie dust doesn’t happen often, it does lessen your chances if you skip the Front Desk check-in completely. Most guests will just head directly to their room rather than pass the lobby to find out. However, should you want to take your chances and ask for an upgrade, just head straight to the on-line check-in queue when you arrive at the resort. I have been the recipient of upgrades even after I’ve already been assigned a room. It doesn’t happen often but it may be your lucky day.
4. MagicBands not linked properly – This is the most common complaint I get from clients who have opted for online check-in and went straight to their room. Not visiting the front desk at all can lead to the occasional problems with your MagicBands not working properly. This usually means you can’t charge items to your resort room using your MagicBand or I have even run into clients who haven’t had their dining plans properly activated. These are problems that the front desk is there to check before you are on your merry way. If heading straight to your resort room, I always suggest you make a stop at the online check-in desk before hitting the parks to avoid problems. It’s much easier to have front desk remedy issues than to have to wait in the Guest Relations lines at the theme parks.
Hopefully, this little breakdown will help you decide whether or not the Disney’s online check-in is best for you. When it comes to convenience you can’t beat it. However, be mindful of the Cons so that you can try to avoid any hiccups along the way!
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